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Charwelton Packhorse Bridge, Daventry

A 13th century bridge with two pointed arches, the oldest in Northamptonshire. Listed Grade II*
Region:
Northamptonshire
Red Wheel Site:
No
Transport Mode(s):
Road
Address:

Banbury Road, Charwelton, Daventry Northamptonshire NN11 3

Postcode:
NN11 3
Visitor Centre:
No
Website:

About Charwelton Packhorse Bridge, Daventry

The first bridges were probably of felled trees lain across the river (Stockbridge and Trowbridge both refer to tree trunk bridges) and then of worked timber.

The Romans built bridges in wood, and probably stone, but none remain in Britain. The oldest surviving timber bridge is over the River Ouse at Selby and dates from 1790.

The first simple stone bridges - clapper bridges comprise large slabs of stone rested on stone piers to span a stream or small river. Tarr Steps, which crosses the River Barle in Somerset, is the longest with 17 spans supporting stone slabs 5 feet wide. It is too narrow for carts but Pont Sarnddu in Carnarvonshire is ten feet across and wide enough for vehicles.

Packhorse bridges, small arched bridges, with very low parapets so as not to get in the way of the horse's panniers, can still be found for example at Wycoller in Lancashire, Moulton in Suffolk, and Fifehead Neville, Dorset.

More sophisticated stone bridges were built abundantly in the 13th century, the use of timber continued into the 16th century. The river Skell at Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire, is crossed by probably the oldest arched bridge in England. Thirteenth to fourteenth century bridges can be recognised by their pointed arches and by the V-shaped extensions over the cutwaters for pedestrian refuges. These were superseded by bridges which were ribbed under the arches (14/15century), and those with semi-circular arches.

But all of these styles are modified by the needs and knowledge of the locality. In the early eighteenth century Daniel Defoe observed "...the Nyd, smaller then the Wharfe, but furiously rapid, and very dangerous to pass in many places, especially upon sudden rains. Notwithstanding, such lofty high built bridges are as not to be seen over such small rivers in any other place".

Masonry arch and cast iron bridges derive from the late 18th and 19th centuries. Bridges were usually made from local materials. In the eastern counties they were first built with timber and then brick.

The packhorse bridge at Charwelton consists of two pointed arches and a pathway only 4 ft. wide between low stone walls. It is believed to date from the 13th century.

By Road: Easily missed as it is partially submerged on the south side of the A361 in the middle of the village. Approaching from Daventry, it is just before a road sign indicating a turning to the left.

Addison, Sir William, The Old Roads of England, Harper Collins, ISBN 0 7134 1714 5 (1980)

Albert, W.,
The Turnpike Road System in England 1663- 1840, Cambridge University Press, ISBN O 5210 3391 8 (1972)

Challis, Chris,
Packhorse Bridge, Aylestone, T. Savage, ASIN: B0007B7S02 7S02 (1986)

Harrison, David,
The Bridges of Medieval England: Transport and Society 400-1800, Oxford University Press, ISBN-10: 0199226857 (2007)

Hartwell, Michael,
Illustrated Guide to the Packhorse Bridges of the Lake District, Ernest Press, ISBN-10: 0948153318 (1994)

Hinchcliffe, Ernest,
Guide to the Packhorse Bridges of England, Cicerone Press, ISBN-10: 1852841435 (1994)

Lewis, Carenza,
Village, Hamlet and Field: Changing Medieval Settlements in Central England, Windgather Press, ISBN-10: 0953863034 (2001)

Williamson, Tom,
Shaping Medieval Landscapes: Settlement, Society, Environment, Windgather Press, ISBN-10: 0954557581 (2004)

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